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Establishing a Daily Meditation Practice

Despite my best intentions, I still have days when I miss my meditation practice. I’m on point for a while and then something happens- I’m busy with school, going out and getting in too late, etc.- that I lose the momentum. So, when we received the assignment in my cognitive behavioral therapy class to design a behavior change experiment for ourselves, I knew what my goal would be- to meditate for at least 15 minutes (hopefully more) at least once a day.

I completed all the preliminary assignments- comparing the days I do meditate to those that I don’t, writing down the excuses I make for not meditating and listing the benefits of a daily practice. Finally, as required, I set up some rules for myself. For instance, if I returned home and had not yet meditated, I would complete my meditation practice before turning on my computer. I also provided myself with a tangible reward that I would receive only if I fulfilled my goal at the end of our three week recording period. Honestly, I found this all a bit silly, but being that I had to complete this project for class anyway, I figured I might as well work towards a goal that would be worth my time.


We wrapped up the project a couple of weeks ago, and to my surprise, it worked! What I found was that it wasn’t so much the rules or rewards I set up for myself (though they were of some help), as it was my own stubbornness to not fail at a completely reasonable and attainable goal that kept me on track. And even though I had made this intention on countless other occasions, something about giving it a little more structure- actually writing down all my lame excuses and the practice of keeping a recording device to track my meditation times- proved really helpful.

So, if anyone is having trouble committing to a daily practice, school assignment or not, providing yourself with a little more structure might not be a bad idea. Believe me, I’m not generally one for rules, but I was quite pleased with the change I saw over the three weeks. It also helped me prove to myself that there is ALWAYS 15 minutes I can find in any busy day to sit. I think finding the right balance of discipline and acceptance is key- the discipline to stay focused and the acceptance to realize that we’re human and might miss an occasional day, but to not use that as an excuse to derail our practice.

How does everyone else stay focused? Any ideas for those of us struggling with solidifying our daily practices? 






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posted May 3, 2009 at 5:06 pm

great to do this experiment. I think it’s important for everyone interested in meditation not to do it once, but to go to a weekly group of some kind and commit to some period of daily practice, say two or three weeks. Then you can assess how you feel about the practice and how it helps or doesn’t help.
What kept you going reminds me of a puzzling buddhist teaching. In one list of positive qualities of the mind we should cultivate is “shame.” Shame means that we hold ourselves to a standard, and realize that we would feel like we let OURSELF (no one else) down if we cave to laziness or distraction. It’s like the enlightened cousin of guilt, the part of getting mad at ourselves that’s intelligent and keeps us excelling. Odd to think that self-shame has a place in discipline, when so many spiritual/psychological teachings are about self-kindness, but I use this positive sense of shame a lot in my life and practice.
Interesting stuff, this daily practice and what it brings up.

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posted May 3, 2009 at 7:29 pm

I’ve found it useful to do my practice first thing in the morning. Basically, I tumble outta bed and I stumble to the kitchen. Pour myself a cup of ambition and yawn and stretch and try to come to life.
Sit on the cushion and the thoughts start pumpin. Out on the street the traffic starts jumpin’. This way I get it done before the 9 to 5.

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Julia May

posted May 4, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Denise – do you think this kind of project works best when you’re only working on one habit/project at a time?
I love that about Shame, E.

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posted May 4, 2009 at 4:24 pm

Rigdenpoet- I also like what you said about that type of shame- can be really motivating.
JM- It is probably best to focus one particular behavior at a time. It’s good to have one realistic/attainable goal- makes it harder to make excuses.

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Sonia Gallagher

posted May 5, 2009 at 6:49 pm

Thanks for writing such a personal post. Im sure it will help many that are starting out with their meditation practice and finding obstacles. I’ve received so many questions about this that Ive posted a common obstacles to meditation and how to overcome them post on my meditation 101 series. It may give you lots of ideas on how to be consistent with your meditation practice.
Meditation is an exercise. So, just like every other exercise, it gets easier the more you do it. Just like working out, its difficult and frustrating at first but then your body needs it. I only meditate about 10 minutes a day and can tell you that its had an amazing impact on my life. I actually went from being a lawyer to an online publisher on meditation. Its been the best thing Ive ever done for myself. Can you believe the 180 degree turn!?

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Stephanie Golden

posted May 6, 2009 at 11:57 am

I agree that a group is important. I belong to a wonderful weekly open sitting group in Brooklyn plus a more personal & intensive monthly group. What keeps my practice up is mostly the inspiration I get from everyone else. Plus when you sit with a group there’s an entrainment of brainwaves that enhances concentration. It’s a great boost.

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posted March 3, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Hello. And Bye.

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